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Two Blasts Hit Kerman, Iran; Over 100 Dead

Two powerful explosions in the Iranian city of Kerman have resulted in a devastating loss of life, with more than 100 people killed and 188 others injured. The twin blasts occurred near the burial site of the late military commander, Qasem Soleimani, and are being described by officials as a terror attack. 

Explosions Strike on Soleimani’s Anniversary 

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On the fourth anniversary of Qasem Soleimani’s death in a U.S. airstrike, these explosions have sent shockwaves through the region. At least one of the blasts was caused by a bomb, as reported by state TV. The incident has further escalated tensions in the Middle East, coinciding with the ongoing Israel-Hamas conflict in Gaza. 

Explosion Locations and Timing 

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The first explosion took place approximately 2,300 feet (700 meters) from Soleimani’s grave, while the second occurred at a distance of 0.6 miles (1 kilometer) away. The blasts unfolded as pilgrims were visiting the site, leading to a tragic loss of life and scores of injuries. IRNA, the state news agency, provided additional details about the incident. 

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Qasem Soleimani’s Demise 

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Qasem Soleimani, a prominent military figure, was killed in a U.S. airstrike ordered by former President Donald Trump at Baghdad International Airport four years ago on the same day as the explosions. 

Details on the Explosions 

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State television channel IRINN reported that the initial explosion near Soleimani’s grave was caused by a bomb concealed in a suitcase inside a Peugeot 405 car, which appeared to be remotely detonated. Iranian Interior Minister Ahmad Vahidi provided a timeline of the tragic event, indicating that the first explosion struck at 3:00 p.m. local time (6:00 a.m. ET), followed by a more destructive blast just 20 minutes later when other pilgrims rushed to aid the injured. 

Immediate Aftermath 

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Videos shared on Iranian state media captured chaotic scenes of large crowds fleeing the area in the aftermath of the explosions. The footage also showed bloodied bodies being transported from the scene, with ambulances navigating through the crowded streets. 

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No Claim of Responsibility 

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While no group has claimed responsibility for the twin blasts, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi was quick to accuse Israel of orchestrating the attacks, warning that those responsible would face severe consequences. Israel has not officially commented on the matter. 

Speculation of a Terrorist Attack 

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Some analysts and a U.S. official have speculated that the nature of the explosions bears resemblance to a terrorist attack, with similarities to tactics employed by groups like ISIS. However, the U.S. State Department stressed that it lacked independent information about the incident and had no reason to believe Israel was involved. 

Iran’s Response 

Credit: West Bangal, India – july 24, 2023 : X logo on phone screen stock image. — Photo by seemantaduttaskv@gmail.com

In response to the attacks, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei issued a stern warning via social media platform X (formerly known as Twitter), promising a harsh response to those behind the blasts. He emphasized the unwavering commitment of Soleimani’s supporters. 

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National Day of Mourning 

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Iran declared a national day of mourning following the tragic event, and President Raisi canceled his planned trip to Turkey. 

Qasem Soleimani’s Legacy 

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The Pentagon described Qasem Soleimani and his troops as responsible for the deaths of hundreds of American and coalition service members, as well as the injury of thousands more. Soleimani, known as Iran’s “shadow commander,” had been at the helm of Iranian military operations in Iraq and Syria since 1998. 

Heightened Regional Tensions 

Credit: Military parade of the Al-Qassam Brigades in Rafah, southern Gaza Strip. May 29, 2021 – Gaza Strip, Palestinian Territories: Gunmen from the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of the Palestinian movement Hamas — Photo by thenews2.com

These explosions come at a time of heightened regional tensions, as Israel remains engaged in a three-month conflict with Hamas in Gaza, which was sparked by an attack by the militant group on Israel. The ongoing conflict has resulted in a significant loss of life in Gaza and increased clashes beyond the borders of Israel and Gaza, often involving Iran-backed militias. 

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Escalation in the Middle East 

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Recent events, including the killing of a senior Hamas leader in Beirut and the alleged assassination of an Iranian commander in Syria, have further strained relations in the region. Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah warned that such actions would not go unanswered. 

International Reactions 

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Russian President Putin condemned terrorism in all forms in a letter to Iran’s Supreme Leader and President, while the European Union and United Nations Chief Antonio Guterres condemned the Kerman blasts and called for accountability. 

U.S. Military Involvement 

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The United States has recently increased its military involvement in the Middle East, conducting airstrikes on Iranian-backed groups in Iraq and engaging in maritime confrontations with Iran-backed Houthi rebels in the Red Sea. 

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Seeking to Avoid Escalation 

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The White House emphasized that it is not seeking a wider conflict, as it navigates the complex dynamics of the region. The Red Sea has witnessed several incidents involving Houthi attacks on merchant vessels, disrupting crucial trade routes. 

These twin blasts in Kerman serve as a stark reminder of the volatile situation in the Middle East and the pressing need for diplomatic efforts to mitigate tensions in the region. 

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